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Split Air Conditioning? What's That?

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If you're shopping around for air conditioning systems, you're likely to come across systems advertised as "split air conditioning systems" at some point. The term is a bit confusing on its face. What's split about the system? Are there two air conditioners or does it have some sort of divider down the middle? Actually, the reality is quite different from what you might imagine. Here's a closer look at what split AC systems are and the situations in which you may want to consider one for your home.

What is a split AC system?

Every air conditioner consists of two main components: the compressor and the evaporator coil. It is the compressor that contains refrigerant and expands that refrigerant. The refrigerant is then used to cool the evaporator coil, and air is passed over the coil, cooling it down. In some air conditioning systems, such as window air conditioning units, these components are all housed in one "box." In a split air conditioning system, the evaporator coil and condenser are housed in separate "boxes."

Typically, the condenser is placed outside, where it can release the heat that was in your home into the air outside. The evaporator coil is placed inside, where it can cool the air and propel it into your home.

Why would you want a split AC unit?

Split AC systems are easier to incorporate into your home design than a system that contains the evaporator coil and compressor in the same unit. (These are sometimes known as packaged systems.) A packaged system has to be very large. With a split system, you only need to find space for two smaller components, which is often easier.

Split AC units tend to be more efficient. With a packaged unit, even when it's vented properly, some of the heat created by the condenser ends up seeping into the home, counteracting the effort of the air conditioner and making it work a bit harder to do its job.

Split AC units also tend to be quieter than packaged units. They can be placed in basements and attics without the worry that the noise they make will disturb you.

Split air conditioning systems are very much the norm in homes these days. Packaged AC units are most often used in larger commercial buildings where they can be placed on the roof. To learn more about split AC systems and why they're so popular, speak with an HVAC contractor, such as those found at Doctor Fix-It.